Truffles, a blood-fuelled car, zombies and a family in retreat from the modern world: recent viewing

Team members enforce their ideology off the field in Bill Milling's Wolfpack (1987)

Spanish zombies, rural American zombies, a Korean serial killer, monsters and illicit mindbending drugs, a blood-fuelled car, small-town fascism, an eccentric family in retreat from the modern world, and a man with a truffle-hunting pig – there’s no pattern here in my recent movie-watching other than a restless search for the original and the entertaining.

One-Shot Wonders: samurai slaughter and zombies

Director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) wants to keep shooting when real zombies attack in Shin'ichiro Ueda's One Cut of the Dead (2017)

When filmmakers attempt to tell a story in a single sustained shot they encounter a number of technical issues because they have to abandon many of the tools developed over the history of cinema. Two recent Japanese movie approach the challenge in very different ways, one (Yuji Shimomura’s Crazy Samurai Musashi [2020]) succumbing to the inherent limitations, the other (Shin’ichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead [2017]) interrogating those limitations with great comic effect.

Winter viewing 1: Vinegar Syndrome

Detective Linda Masterson (Cynthia Rothrock) investigates a killer martial artist in Kelly Makin's Tiger Claws (1991)

A long cold winter, a working-from-home schedule and pandemic-induced malaise means I’ve been watching a lot of undemanding genre movies over the past few months. One of my primary sources in the past couple of years has been Vinegar Syndrome, a company whose dedication to unearthing obscure, often forgotten genre movies equals my own passion for watching them. Although by no means a complete account of my VS viewing, here are brief notes on two dozen titles.

Recent disks from England, part two: Arrow

A young woman's psychic powers make her a target of nefarious forces in Nico Mastorakis' Death Has Blue Eyes (1976)

Arrow’s big pre-Christmas sale brought a wide range of titles, some old, some new: Juan Simon Piquer’s Spanish slasher Pieces (1982), Chelsea Stardust’s horror comedy Satanic Panic (2019), Giancarlo Santi’s spaghetti western The Grand Duel (1972), Lee Min-jae’s horror comedy Zombie for Sale (2019), Jill Gevargizian’s psycho horror The Stylist (2020),Nico Mastorakis incoherent first feature Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), a Japanese double bill of sci-fi crime movies, Nobuo Adachi’s The Invisible Man Appears (1949) and Mitsuo Murayama’s The Invisible Man vs the Human Fly (1957), Riccardo Freda’s mix of melodrama and giallo Double Face (1969), Jacques Tourneur’s late film noir Nightfall (1956), and Giorgio Ferroni’s atmospheric Gothic horror Mill of the Stone Women (1960).

Paul Morrissey’s Gothic horrors

The Count (Udo Kier) reacts to non-virgin blood in Paul Morrissey's Blood for Dracula (1974)

It’s been a long time coming, but Paul Morrissey’s two unique Gothic horror movies from the early 1970s – Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and Blood for Dracula (1974) – have finally arrived on disk in superb restorations, the former from Vinegar Syndrome, the latter from Severin. Both editions are packed with hours of extras, and Flesh for Frankenstein is finally available in 3D (both digital and anaglyphic) as well as flat. Together, the home video highlight of 2021.

Euro Pulp

Delphine Seyrig conveys elegant ennui as the Countess Elizabeth Bathory in Harry Kümel's Daughters of Darkness (1971)

A selection of European genre movies from the 1970s and ’80s ranges from sadistic killers to cannibals to elegant vampires, from bad fashions and electro-pop music to old families sinking into decadence, from masters of exploitation like Sergio Martino, Lucio Fulci, Umberto Lenzi and Ruggero Deodato to the artful Harry Kümel.

Recent Arrow viewing, Part Two

Captain Seafield (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) and sonar expert Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) are shocked by the Lake Michigan Monster (2018)

Yet another wide range of titles from Arrow Video from a restored silent classic to aliens over Tokyo, woods infested with zombies, food which consumes those who eat it, apocalypse in an alternate future Los Angeles, friendship destroyed by political conflicts, rich people facing the loss of their wealth and a naively admiring time capsule of the U.S. on the brink of the ’60s.

Blasts from the past

John Paskievich’s Special Ed debuts at Hot Docs

A frustrating evening

Volker Schlöndorff’s Baal (1970): Criterion Blu-ray review

Spooky

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